Extraordinary claims. Ordinary investigations.

The word is… Cartocacoethes

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Now just when you got used to amazing examples of pareidolia, comes another strange word and even stranger kind of apophenia. Cartocacoethes, the compulsion to see maps everywhere. This may seem like a rare and intriguing idiosyncrasy, but it turns out “the oldest map in the world”, an iconic image that just begs to be seen as a map, may not have been a map at all.

It’s the 8,000 year old Çatalhöyük map:

catalhoyuk_map_1964

catal_excavationsvcz Isn’t that so obviously a city plan? Especially when you compare it to a map of the area represented, as reconstructed from contemporary excavations, at right.

There’s even the twin cones of a volcano, suggesting the eruption of Hasan Da?, visible from Çatalhöyük and from where the inhabitants extracted the valuable obsidian used in the making of tools, weapons, jewelry, mirrors and other objects.

Only thing is, the original assessment of what the painting represented was not a map. And recent reevaluations indicate that “it is clear that the original interpretation is much more likely to be the correct one. The painting is unlikely to be a map of Çatalhöyük”.

What was it? Read the post on Making Maps: Cartocacoethes: Why the World’s Oldest Map Isn’t a Map.

And don’t miss the original post on Strange Maps for more cartocacoethes fun.

Relevant to our interests, archaeologist Stephanie Meece warns how the out-of-context interpretation of ancient works of art, based on superficial resemblance to something else, “is a bane of archaeologists, and leads to von Daniken and his spaceships”.

Sure enough, not only is this out of context interpretation the main fallacy of Danikenism (or Charrouxism, or…), but there are also many cartocacoethes examples out there.

I couldn’t find a link, but I do remember (if you find it, please do comment below) seeing a weathered slab of rock claimed to be the oldest known map of something, along with a lot of other wild claims, when it was obviously just a slab of rock. Cartocacoethes. [via Skepnet]

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Posted in Fortean,Science,Skepticism | 6 comments

6 Comments so far

  1. […] Cartocacoethes, the Compulsion to See Maps Everywhere […]

  2. vioxxfact January 8th, 2009 4:32 pm

    If you look at the ‘extras’ DVD from LOST season 1, at some point someone will hold up a panel from one of those artificial bee hives: it has a map of the world on it!! (made by bees!)

  3. Monte January 8th, 2009 6:06 pm

    Dear Forgetomori:
    I can suggest one more item for this discussion. In an old Fortean Times article (which I was never able to find again, readers help if you can) there was a bit about a site in New England which has rock shattered and altered by natural process so it looks strikingly like some form of runes, row after row of runes. There are stone walls covered in runes that are really cliffs dug-out to make rooms for paths, and people go there to study the ‘runes’, and had spent quite a lot of effort to translate them. I remember they were remarkably regular, so that one could easily mistake them for artifacts. It seemed to be formed by an intersecting series of cracks, vertical cracks forming the upright strokes and angular cracks forming the side strokes. I think some mineral of a different color had seeped into the cracks and solidified, so they stood out visually and really didn’t look accidental or natural. Do any Forgetomori readers know of these ‘rune stones’? I’ve lost the link. Thanks.

  4. Fergana: Too Good to be True | forgetomori January 27th, 2009 8:08 am

    […] and objects and interpret them as something different from what they originally represented. Cartocacoethes, for instance. That is the central method and fallacy of the Ancient Astronauts […]

  5. Mavromatis March 12th, 2009 7:17 pm

    I’m seeing Hasan Da? instead of Hasan Da?, is the problem on my side or yours?

    There’s even the twin cones of a
    volcano, suggesting the eruption of
    Hasan Da?, visible from Çatalhöyük and
    from where the inhabitants extracted
    the valuable obsidian used in the
    making of tools, weapons, jewelry,
    mirrors and other objects.

  6. Doug May 3rd, 2010 2:05 pm

    The stone slab map, called “The Creator’s Map,” supposedly a 120 million year old map.

    http://www.hiddenmysteries.org/mysteries/terra/map-creator.html

    Yes, it was in FT some time ago. Silliness obviously.

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